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Tour Destinations In Tamil Nadu - Madurai

Earlier History | Culture of Tamil Nadu | Facts & Figures | Beaches in Tamil Nadu | Cuisines | Festivals | Around Tamil Nadu

Madurai or the "city of nectar" is the oldest and second largest city of Tamil Nadu. This city is located on Vaigai River and was the capital of Pandyan rulers till the 14th century. Madurai is an animated city packed with pilgrims, beggars, businesspeople, bullock carts and legions of underemployed rickshaw- wallahs. Dating about 2500 years back in time, it is one of southern India's oldest cities, and has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. Reading through inscriptions, travelogues and the writings of missionaries, one can gather that Madurai was the cynosure of all eyes because of its prosperity. Ibn Batuta describes the beauty of Madurai in the midst of the destruction, as having a layout and scheme that was centred round the

Places of Interest

A Historical Perspective
The Imperial Cholas of Thanjavur maintained a hegemony over Madurai. The city had the title Maduraikondan, or the "Vanquisher of Madurai". This led to a period of sullen co-existence and the Pandyas of Madurai wooed sri Lanka and Kerala to throw in their lot with them to create multi-focal disturbances in order to get back power.Later, when Madurai came under the Vijayanagara Kings and established a governorship under Nagamma Nayak, the city played a pivotal role in holding together the southern regions of the empire. The development of an army and the accumulation of wealth.

Often hidden and unaccounted for, from the central power helped the Nayaks to break free and establish an independent state centred around Madurai. Gangadevi, the author of Madhuravijayam, has established that the conquest of Madurai was most crucial to the building of the Vijayanagara Empire, as controlling this town permitted them to hold sway over the heartland in the South.

The Roman Connection
The Pandyas, who ruled Madurai through two millennia, were a sea-faring dynasty and maintained close links with Sri Lanka and other nations and islands in the Indian Ocean. Back home, it was with Kerala. They established trade, the products being pearls, spices, cloth and other commodities. Imperial Rome coveted these riches and the impact of counter-trade can be judged going by the discovery of numerous Roman coins in excavations at Madurai.

Meenakshi Temple
The Meenakshi temple, as we know it today, covers a vast area and is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, improved upon by different dynasties such as the Vijayanagara and Nayaka rulers. The temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, the consort of Lord Shiva. The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to Tirumalai Nayak who brought back glory to this magnificent structure.
Located at the heart of the city, the Meenakshi-Sundareshwar temple has long been the focus of both Indian and international tourist attraction as well as one of the most important places of Hindu pilgrimage.People of the city

wake up to the chant of hymns at the temple, which is the very centre of their cultural and religious life.

Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam
This is a huge temple tank about 5 km east of the Meenakshi temple. The mandapam in the centre has an idol of Vigneshwara (Vinayaka). Discovered during excavation to build the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, the place was believed to be sanctified and was converted into a teppakulam (tank). This enormous temple tank is fed by water brought from the Vagai through an ingenious system of underground channels. It is the site of the temple's float festival.

Thirumalai Nayak Mahal
There is no other building in Madurai, which better illustrates the architectural style of the Nayaks. The palace of Tirumalai Nayak is about 1 km away from the temple. This Indo-Saracenic building was constructed in 1523 and was originally four times as large as it is today. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa which house the royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and gardens. The most remarkable part of this palace is the dome of Swarga Vilasam, which lies beyond a huge courtyard and is a magnificent example of the engineering skill of its builders, rising as it does to a height of 20m without support of any kind.

Koodal Azhagar Temple
- This ancient shrine has Vishnu in sitting, standing and reclining postures one above the other.
- The Gandhi Museum
- The Gandhi Memorial Museum is one of the distinct places to be visited in Madurai. This museum is one of - the rare living memorials of "The Father of India" and has an elaborate historical account of India's struggle for independence.

Annamalai and Nagamalai

Annamalai and Nagamalai are two striking rock formations, and home to ascetics of the Jain and Hindu faiths. There are inaccessible caves with Tamil Brahmi inscriptions on rock beds which are chiselled out as quarters for the sages. The sages, reclusive philosophers and savants, were responsible for the development of the Tamil Language, Madurai, the cradle of Tamil Literature, attained further eminence on hosting the Tamil Sangam-an epochal events in the history of the language.

The chance discovery of 13th century icons of Bikshadanar and Krishna in child form, a sacred conch, a lamp and other vessels at Manalur, about 20 km from Madurai, has thrown fresh light on the history of this place.For most people living in Madurai, Manalur is known as just a sleepy suburb of the temple city, situated on the banks of river Vaigai, known for its brick kilns and as a main quarry for sand. But very few know that the place once served as the capital of the Pandya kings.Places with names like Iravathanallur, named after Lord Indra_s elephant Airavata, Virahanur, Konthagai (Kunthinagaram) etc., near Manalur suggest links to the episodes mentioned in Mahabharata. The place was also famous during the rule of later Pandyas. A detailed excavation at Manalur may help unravel many mysteries connected with Pandya kings.

How to Reach Madurai

By Air: There are daily flights to and from Tiruchirapalli, Madras and Bangalore.

By Rail: There are train connections to Madurai from Madras, which takes eight hours via Trichy and from Rameshwaram, takes six hours. If you approach Madurai from Kerala, some spectacular scenes of the Western Ghats can be viewed.

By Road: There is very good service from Madurai to most of the major cities in the state. State run or private buses commute at regular intervals.


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